FaithWorld

Justin Bieber apologizes after Japan shrine visit sparks Asian anger

(Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, 2010/Wiiii)

Canadian pop singer Justin Bieber, whose tumultuous life has landed him in trouble more than once, on Wednesday apologized for a visit to a Tokyo shrine at the center of a bitter international row over Japan’s wartime aggression.

Bieber, 20, posted a picture on social media of himself visiting Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine with the heading, “Thank you for your blessings”.

The picture was later deleted, although it was republished elsewhere on the Internet, including by a Bieber fan group, and drew criticism from South Korea and China.

The shrine honors 14 Japanese leaders convicted as war criminals after World War Two along with Japan’s war dead, and visits to the shrine by Japanese politicians anger victims of Japan’s past aggression, including South Korea and China.

Chinese officials have compared Japanese politicians’ visits to the shrine to the idea of German politicians laying flowers on Hitler’s bunker.

Israel is encouraging more Christian Arabs to join military service

(Israeli Arab Christian boy scouts play bagpipes during an Easter Monday parade in Tel Aviv’s Jaffa neighbourhood, April 21, 2014. REUTERS/Finbarr O’Reilly)

Israel said on Tuesday it was stepping up efforts to encourage military enlistment by Christian Arab citizens, a community long closer to the larger Muslim minority in identifying with the Palestinians.

Israel’s Christian Arabs number about 160,000, some two percent of the Jewish state’s eight million people, and the expected number of conscripts – now about 100 – will rise in coming months, a senior military officer said.

Vandals deface Pope John Paul II memorial in Krakow before canonization

(A worker prepares to wipe away graffiti of the Star of David on the Pope John Paul II memorial boulder in Krakow April 23, 2014. REUTERS/Pawel Ulatowski)

Vandals daubed paint across a stone memorial commemorating the late Pope John Paul II in his home region of southern Poland on Wednesday, days before he is to be made a saint.

Police fenced off the memorial in the center of Krakow as municipal workers tried to remove the paint, a Reuters reporter said. Officers did not comment on who might have been responsible, or why they committed the act of vandalism.

from John Lloyd:

The UK’s paradox of faith

When David Cameron recently proclaimed in the Church Times -- the organ of the Church of England -- that he was a Christian, that his faith helped guide him through life and work and that Britain is a Christian country and should be proud of it, he was met with a wall of disapproval.

When a European leader says he's a Christian and that he lives in a Christian country, he's asking for trouble. The approved political position in Europe is that religion should be commended for its sterling values when it cares for the poor and condemned when it is used as a rationale for terrorism. Otherwise, politicians should steer clear and leave it to the clergy.

European states are not the United States, and thus not “nations under God,” (though only since 1954, when the words were added to the pledge of allegiance). EU states are nations under constitutions that prescribe secularism. They say that all faiths may (peacefully) flourish and that none shall have priority.

UK PM Cameron accused of fueling division by calling Britain a Christian country

(Britain’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, at the enthronement ceremony for the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, at Canterbury Cathedral March 21, 2013.REUTERS/Toby Melville)

A group of scientists, academics and prominent writers accused British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday of stoking sectarian divisions through his repeated description of Britain as a “Christian country”.

The public figures, including authors Philip Pullman and Terry Pratchett, said they respected the Conservative leader’s own religious beliefs, which he has addressed in a series of statements.

At Easter, Kiev-based Ukrainian church condemns Russian ‘aggression’

(Ukrainian Orthodox priests conduct a holy liturgy during an Orthodox Easter service in Mikhailovsky Cathedral in Kiev early April 20, 2014. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko)

As Russians and Ukrainians celebrated Easter on Sunday with their nations locked in conflict, the head of Ukraine’s Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate condemned Russian “aggression” and said “evil” would be defeated.

“Against our peace-loving nation, which voluntarily gave up nuclear weapons, there has been aggression, there has been injustice,” Patriarch Filaret said in his Easter message, as quoted by local media. “A country which guaranteed the integrity and inviolability of our territory has committed aggression.

U.N. peace envoy criticizes Israeli Easter security at Jerusalem church

(Worshippers hold candles as they take part in the Christian Orthodox Holy Fire ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City, April 19, 2014. REUTERS/Finbarr O’Reilly )

Israeli police refused to let the U.N.’s peace envoy to the Middle East, other diplomats and a crowd of Palestinians pass through a barricade to attend a pre-Easter ritual in the Jerusalem church that Christians revere as the burial site of Jesus, the U.N. official said on Saturday.

The incident, following two days of violence at a separate holy site known as a flashpoint for Jews and Muslims, underscored rising tensions in the politically charged city ahead of Pope Francis’s Holy Land visit next month.

Hollywood plays to the faithful and finds box-office hits with God

(Cast member Emma Watson arrives for the UK premiere of “Noah”, Leicester Square, London, March 31, 2014. REUTERS/Paul Hacket)

Hollywood has embraced God in a big – and lucrative – way.

The movie “Heaven is for Real,” which depicts the story of a young boy who claims to have visited heaven during a near death experience, is the fourth faith-based film this year to stir movie-going audiences with impressive box office numbers.

Made for $12 million, the film, which stars Greg Kinnear, collected $21.5 million over the Easter weekend in U.S. and Canadian theaters, finishing third at the box office behind bigger budget films “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” from Walt Disney and “Rio 2″ from Fox.

In Damascus, Christians briefly ignore war for Good Friday

(Debris lie inside a damaged church in Mar Bacchus Sarkis monastery, in Maloula village, northeast of Damascus, after soldiers loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad took control of it from rebel fighters, April 14, 2014. REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri )

The sound of battles echoes from the outskirts of the capital as Christians in Damascus celebrated the Easter weekend, briefly ignoring the conflict for the yearly ritual.

At the gates of Saint George Syrian Orthodox Church – just a few minutes walk from a school where a mortar attack killed several children and injured dozens earlier this week – incense was burning as several uniformed and armed men stood patrol before Good Friday evening services. They joked with each other and did not check ID cards or handbags as people entered.

Iraq’s draft child marriage law seen as political stunt – and sign of times

(Hussein Younis Ali, 14 walks with his bride Nada Ali Hussein, 17, during the wedding party at his home in Tikrit, 150 km (93 miles) north of Baghdad, October 8, 2013.REUTERS/Bakr al-Azzawi)

Proposals that would legalize the marriage of nine-year-old Iraqi girls are unlikely to become law, but indicate the growing role of religion in a country some fear is going down the path of neighboring theocracy Iran.

Based on Shi’ite Islamic jurisprudence, the Ja’afari Law’s advocates say it would bring regulation of personal status – comprising family law, wills and inheritance – into line with sharia religious law.